How can I contest a debit card charge from a bar if I don't have the receipt?
December 20, 2004 10:31 AM   Subscribe

How can I contest a debit card charge from a bar if I don't have the receipt? [more inside]

Two friends and I went to a bar last night. We had two ginger ales, 6-8 beers, and a dish of almonds. I don't remember the exact tab, but it was around $45. I happened to check my online bank account this morning, and they'd charged $93.92 on my debit card. (I don't tip that well.) I can't find my receipt; how can I get them to fix this?
posted by kirkaracha to Law & Government (21 answers total)
Err, call the bar and explain the issue? If that fails, call the bank and see if they can help you. If that, fails, torch the goddamn place.

Pretty easy solution, there.
posted by xmutex at 10:37 AM on December 20, 2004

You may have just gotten charged twice accidently ($46.96 x 2). This has happened to me once or twice before, usually because of flaky card readers. It should be easily fixable with a call or visit back to the bar.
posted by FreezBoy at 10:43 AM on December 20, 2004

On preview, all the stuff above is what I'd do.

That being said, this is why I pay cash for each round when drinking. Waitstaff and bartenders have frequently attempted to overcharge me. Furthermore, I'd stop going there.
posted by MrZero at 10:45 AM on December 20, 2004

This is a perfect example of why you shouldn't use a debit card. The money is taken directly out of your account when you use a debit card as opposed to loss of available credit on your credit card. Credit card charges can be easily cancelled, getting cash back into a bank account however can be quite a pain in the ass. Dump the debit card, they're too dangerous to use.
posted by pwb503 at 10:48 AM on December 20, 2004

If you were charged twice it should show up as two separate entries when you check your account online. If that's the case, you might have luck contacting the bar and asking to be refunded. I had that happen at a restaurant once by a clueless hostess who was just learning how to process charge cards; I caught it, called and talked to a manager, and was able to pick up a cash refund later that day.

If it wasn't a double charge, I think it gets trickier. On my debit card, I believe I'm liable for the first $50 of any fraud. I'd endorse the suggestion to call your bank asap.

Also, wouldn't a restaurant have to save the charge slip you sign? You might have luck asking them to produce it.

Did you fill out the tip line on the slip, or did you leave it blank and pay in cash? This may not apply to you, but I always make sure to write the tip and write the final amount (or else write "on table" on the tip line and then fill in the check amount on the total line) before signing. Otherwise I would think a dishonest server or bartender could doctor the receipt.
posted by handful of rain at 11:09 AM on December 20, 2004

Thanks for the suggestions. There's only one entry in my account. I filled in the tip and total on the slip.
posted by kirkaracha at 11:14 AM on December 20, 2004

It usually takes a day or two for my debit charges at bars and such to settle down to the right number. I know this because I usually round my tips up to the nearest $**.00 and frequently see charges for $43.47 that later settle out into $44.00.

Is the debit listed as a "Pending Debit"? If so, you don't need to panic just yet, but it'd be a good idea to raise the issue with the bank and bar (they have to keep those signed reciepts) before it becomes final.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:18 AM on December 20, 2004

Call the bar and insist on seeing your signed receipt. Tell them the situation. It could be that there is a dishonest employee involved, or it could be that there was an honest mistake. In either case, the bar's management has a strong interest in seeing the situation resolved amicably.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:24 AM on December 20, 2004

And, for future reference--don't use a debit card on your main account. Have a "shell" account that you replenish from your main account, just in case. I have an account that I use for debit card, PayPal, online bill payment, etc., that I keep separate from my main account.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:26 AM on December 20, 2004

I thought most debit cards had fraud protection these days? Mine is a zero liability deal.
posted by naomi at 11:35 AM on December 20, 2004

Furthermore, I'd stop going there.

I've gotten charged twice by restaurants that I know and trust - sometimes it just happens, so I wouldn't necessarily chalk it up to malevolence. Give them the benefit of the doubt, at least until it happens again.
posted by milovoo at 11:36 AM on December 20, 2004

Dump the debit card, they're too dangerous to use.

I lost my debit card last year, didn't know it for a week because I never use the thing. By the time I figured it out, my account was 1,500 dollars lighter. The bank (US Bank) made the entire 1,500 available to me while they straightened it out, which took about three weeks. I wasn't out a penny over the whole ordeal. In face, I actually made about twenty dollars somehow. That seems like the same kind of protection available to credit card users.

I was a waitress and a bartender for four years and a front-of-the-house manager for two. Wait staff are an angry bunch. Asshole customers tend to make some servers feel completely justified in doing whatever they can for more money (I'm not saying you were an asshole, but the guy the server waited on before you might have been). That includes doctoring receipts to increase their tips. Always, always make sure that the tip line is filled out. Write big and bold so that the numbers can't be doctored as easily. Some restaraunt computer ordering systems have bugs or loopholes that allow the server to charge for a meal, run a customer's card to pay for it, and then delete the meal before it ever gets to the order printer in the kitchen. The server then pockets the cost of the meal. So, the next day, always check to see that the deduction from your account is correct. As a manager, I dealt with at least twenty charge-backs per month. Some were honest mistakes. Some were iffy. And more than once, they led directly to the firing of a waiter or bartender.
posted by cilantro at 11:54 AM on December 20, 2004 [1 favorite]

Yeah, most debit cards are pretty safe to use. I had a bit of fraud on mine in October, and Bank of America gave me the entire amount back, twice, while they investigated (I did tell them of the double-refund and they fixed that). I got the temporary refund within two business adys, and I received a letter a few weeks later telling me they had concluded their investigation and that the refund was permanent. Amount I was out: $0.
posted by kindall at 12:02 PM on December 20, 2004

Robocop is quite right here. There can be a huge difference in the amount "pending" on a bar or restaurant charge, and the actual charge that finally goes through. I see it on my electronic statement often.

The card was run through for approval before you signed the receipt, right?

Someone else may know for sure, but my guess is that the cashier rounds up when they send your card through, to make sure that the total (with tip) would be covered if you add it on.
posted by tizzie at 12:36 PM on December 20, 2004

Someone else may know for sure, but my guess is that the cashier rounds up when they send your card through, to make sure that the total (with tip) would be covered if you add it on.

That's close to how it works. In my years running the debit/credit card system at a local bank restaurants caused the most concern among our customers. What happens is, they take your card - swipe it - and get a verification for the amount they estimate you'll spend. They then run the charge through that you've authorized. Sometimes, the verification amount will linger after the authorized charge hits your account - there is the appearance of a double charge, but you haven't really been charged twice. The bar/restaurant has nothing to do with this stuff. In fact, they pay a fee for all of these services and, generally, won't deal with the errors that occur. They will, of course, sometimes try to help because they consider it a customer service issue. Two charges tacked together (if that is what happened) is different. In this case, the employee at the bar swiped the card - didn't think it had gone through - and ran it again. This is easy to see on bank records because of the narrow gap in time. Oh, always use the credit side of your debit card for purchases - you are then backed-up by the card provider (Visa/Mastercard) and a series of rules and regulations that provide services most people are unaware of.
posted by rotifer at 1:20 PM on December 20, 2004

Regarding debit cards, the problem is not necessarily that you will not get the money back in the end, but that you might bounce a check before you notice it is missing.
posted by grouse at 1:35 PM on December 20, 2004

Your bank probably has software that shows every time someone/where tries to authorize your card. My bank (employer) does, anyway. If you have been twice-charged, or it looks that way, it may be that they authorized twice and one of them will fall off and the funds will be available again within (usually) 3-4 business days. The other twice charged scenario is that both are debited, and you will have to file a dispute with your bank. Depending on your bank, the forms will be online or there will be some process available to you at a branch. By law, they have ten days to investigate your initial claim and issue provisional credit if they find merit or if their investigation has to continue beyond the ten days. Some banks give credit immediately, some don't. The process is pretty good, and if you have a Visa Debit Card, which a lot of people do, it may be even easier.

That's a long-winded way to say, talk to your bank. Federal Regulation E handles this, and you do have consumer recourse.
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:43 PM on December 20, 2004

Dump the debit card, they're too dangerous to use.

Nonsense. There are advantages to both, use what you feel safe with, but debit cards are not dangerous. Best invention since the net.
posted by justgary at 12:04 AM on December 21, 2004

Followup question: Are debit cards not used all that much in the USA? When paying by card is it more usual to use a credit card?
posted by salmacis at 5:32 AM on December 21, 2004

As far as the merchant's handling of them goes, debit cards are credit cards. Most merchants (with a few exceptions, typically supermarkets and certain large discount chains) don't take debit cards "as" debit cards. They process them as credit cards because they already have the systems in place for processing credit cards, or else because the typical purchase is cheaper to process that way. The card typically bears either a MasterCard or a Visa logo.

If you enter your PIN to complete the transaction, the merchant is processing your debit card as a debit card. (In this case, the merchant may also offer "cash back," i.e. a charge for more than the purchase amount, where they give you the excess in cash.) If you sign to complete the transaction, the merchant is processing your debit card as a credit card. Pretty much every ATM card issued by major banks is now also a debit card that can be used either way, although if you insist, many banks will give you an ATM card that is just an ATM card.

That said, it still feel silly to me to put purchases under $10 on my debit card. That's cash territory to me. Kids don't seem to have that hangup, though.
posted by kindall at 8:55 AM on December 21, 2004

Wow, you learn something every day. Here in the UK, practically every ATM card is also a debit card, and just about every purchase I make is with that card.
posted by salmacis at 3:10 PM on December 21, 2004

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